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Results of hack
The server hacking incident wasn't as bad as we thought it was. The hacker, whom we traced to an IP address in Austin Texas under the Road Runner ISP, may have attempted to reboot Apache. Ironically, he revealed a bigger problem with my server that eventually stopped him cold.
A diagnostic showed that the primary hard disk has several bad sector chunks on it and is growing steadily -- a sign that it is dying and needs replacement, not repair. When Apache attempted to reboot, the process was halted when it came across a bad sector and hung -- possibly preventing the hacker from doing further damage.
Now I have to replace the hard disk. Fortunately it's still under warranty.
I've gone into a partnership with Ditesh and Mohan from PCRangers.com
. They're both 23-year old network engineers who made a bundle while they were still in college by programming applications and they're helping me with the server. I'm providing my marketing expertise, as well as hard disk space in return for looking after my server and running an intrusion warning system on it. We're also collaborating on a few project ideas that we expect will grow and intensify the internet market in Malaysia.
In addition, we're going back to the data centre this weekend, after office hours, to install Redhat and reconfigure the system and "harden" it against attacks and close exploit openings. Currently the damn thing is running on Mandrake 9 and the previous sysadmins had intentionally left it open to exploitation by spammers. Good thing I fired them
before they did anymore damage.
We'll probably meet the friendly data centre caretaker engineers at Tmnet again. They have a lonely job, little better than bored security guards. At night, they have little else to do but surf porn. They don't too much of that though. When we inquired about the oddly slow throughput of the internet connection from the staging room, the engineer said that the connection at Tmnet's headquarters was ironically "not optimised".
My server got hacked
That's the reason why you weren't able to see my website yesterday.
The intrusion attempts started on April 14, according to the log. The IP of the intruder was found to be somewhere in the US and I am going to find out which ISP he or she was using and lodge a complaint with them. Not that it will do me much good now.
I have lost all the trust of my customers.
The intruder had found a software exploit and created a user called YAD. I'm going to the data centre tonight to figure out what else was done.
The problem was no one was watching the server. I have a firewall setup, but I didn't have enough money left to have a sysadmin sit there and watch the logs. I still don't.
Basically, this server has cost me almost RM9000 (USD$2400) in debts for hardware, software, repairs and service fees. And that's only in the first four months. Let's not even count the monthly bill for its rental. I think I may have to cut my loses on this one and focus on just web design.
My landlady gave me a fresh mango last night. I think it's because she wanted to do something nice. The alternative reasons are too horrible to contemplate.
The old switcheroo
The enemy is no longer Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party
. Actually the Baathists are now allies
. The enemy is now going to be the Shiite Muslims
. Say, aren't those the same ones they wanted to free so they could practice their freedom of religion and stuff?
The problem is Arabs all over the world truly believe that they can combine democracy and theocracy in a manner superior to other kinds of democracies. Or at least make democracy more in-line with their concept of religious life. This kind of hope is inspiring. They look toward Egypt and Jordan, even Pakistan, as working examples. But it appears the strongest influence on the Iraqis is from their neighbour Iran. While it is true that Iran is becoming more progressive under the leadership of President Khatami, he fights for his political survival daily with the Shiite clerics who command the faithful and threaten to overwhelm him on any given day in favour of a fundamentalist movement. An Islamic government for Iraq has always been a foregone conclusion, but it is too early to write them off yet.
Reading the Koran has never been put a down-payment on a Mercedes Benz, but the all-mighty dollar can. But then again, that's Saudi Arabia all over again, isn't it.
Some war protestors can go too far. It's beyond even what Sean Penn did
. This is the story of what Jane Fonda did in July 1972 on the final days of the Vietnam War to earn the nickname Hanoi Jane
. Via Snopes.Aside from visiting villages, hospitals, schools, and factories, Fonda also posed for pictures in which she was shown applauding North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners, was photographed peering into the sights of an NVA anti-aircraft artillery launcher, and made ten propagandistic Tokyo Rose-like radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as "war criminals." She also spoke with eight American POWs at a carefully arranged "press conference," POWS who had been tortured by their North Vietnamese captors to force them to meet with Fonda, deny they had been tortured, and decry the American war effort. Fonda apparently didn't notice (or care) that the POWs were delivering their lines under duress or find it unusual the she was not allowed to visit the prisoner-of-war camp (commonly known as the "Hanoi Hilton") itself. She merely went home and told the world that "[the POWs] assured me they were in good health. When I asked them if they were brainwashed, they all laughed. Without exception, they expressed shame at what they had done." She did, however, charge that North Vietnamese POWs were systematically tortured in American prison-of-war camps."
This story had to come out. According to a Google search, there are only 5620 references to Hanoi Jane
whereas there are over 114000 references to Jane Fonda
. Even taking into account that a (small) percentage of the pages are not referring to her, I think it's an over-balance for someone who only made a few bad movies, made lots of women sweat and married a rich guy. Hanoi Jane ought to have more infamy than that.
Si chuan food
I was invited to dinner to the home of some students from China to discuss the possibility of setting up a paid alternative to Kazaa for pirated movies. (Our added benefit being consistently high quality stuff that you can preview with a huge archive.)
All the students were from the river port city of Chongqing in the Sichuan province and they were doing their MBAs and masters at the HELP Institute
in Damansara Heights. I know a bit of Mandarin, but I could barely catch what they were saying. China is a country that's divided by a common language, each region (and whole cities) speak with remarkably differing accents. Generally, Chinese from China speak Mandarin with a kind of slur. Sichuan accents seem to complicate it with moments of flat intonation. I was quite certain they were moving their tongues, but not their lips.
I asked them what about the SARS attacks in China. The consensus was that Chongqing is so far down the Yangtze river that no traveller in the right mind (SARS-infected or no SARS-infected) would go there. It's closer to the Tibetan border than it is to Shanghai. Chongqing was innoculated by its remoteness.
We sat on sofas and armchairs that came with the rented house. Most of the houses in the area were occupied by students studying at HELP so they had the sparse and over-used feel of student-housing furnishing. Yinjian, a computer science post-grad, brought out a huge wok and laid it in the centre of a cheap coffee table, steaming fresh from the gas stove, and we dug into it with chopsticks.
All six students asked me several times before dinner with great concern if I could eat chillis. This foreshadowing for Sichuan cuisine only excited me. So I was quite prepared for a truly-spicy Sichuan meal.
The wok contained a stew of string noodles, littered with slices of pork liver sausages and cucumber, spiced with cardamoms, cloves and nutmeg and handfuls of dried chillis and chilli seeds. With chopsticks, we picked from the communal wok into our bowls. To cool our tongues, we had slices of home made ice cream cake -- mixture of flavoured ice and sticky pink gel topped with chocolate sprinkles on top. I also had a true Chinese delicacy -- tangy bean curd pickled in rice wine which tasted like rancid butter. I found myself so weakened by the chillis, I couldn't turn down the second offer of the bean curd.
During dinner, I made a couple of observations. I don't use chopsticks the proper way -- I tend to cross them. So I found it comforting to note that even China Chinese have the same problem too. Malaysian Chinese normally eat meals with more rice than stew, but the Sichuan Chinese don't usually eat rice. We had a small communal bowl of sticky rice, but three of us were ladling from it, myself eating the most.
Things are still not going well on the work front. Costs are mounting for my tiny company and the work isn't coming in fast enough. The last of my savings has been called up. Things look very bleak for the future.
I'm not in a terribly good mood this week. And I don't feel like blogging. Yesterday the flat I was staying in was broken into but nothing was stolen. Last month, my wallet was pick-pocketed. Last week, my server went down for 24 hours which led to even more software problems. Demons have been plaguing me. And Ramesh says these demons are real and they want only bad luck for me.
Yesterday he took me to a flat in Brickfields where he and some friends have organised a small silat school. Silat is a Malaysian martial arts that moves like tai chi but has slightly more springyness. The door on the third-floor of the walk-up flat opened to a tiny bright-yellow painted room with a few carved wooden knives hanging off the walls along with framed black and white portrait photos of old men in silat costumes whom I took to be silat masters. Four Indian men in their twenties were in black silat costumes with yellow and black silk bandannas tied around their forehead. They were in defensive positions, each moving to a set sequence of silat maneuvers, some in crab-like positions then suddenly in praying-mantis positions.
Ramesh had asked me to buy nine limes and I brought these in a plastic bag. They were of the wrong size (I should have bought the bigger variety), but Ramesh had spares. We sat on a yellow mat in a room at the back of the flat while the others were practicing outside. He said he was going to bless them and he held each of them silently for several minutes. Then, as he started to make cuts and notches on each of the limes, he explained that in silat philosophy we are in a battle between good and evil and that we are seeking a balance between them. This blessing that he was performing would help restore the balance around me since it was quite obvious that the evil forces were gaining an upper hand.
I am now to bathe in the blessed lime juice for three days then throw the rinds in the front and back of my flat, and the last lime must be thrown into a river to carry the spirits away. I hope it works. I feel like shit.
Visit to the data centre
You weren't able to see my website yesterday because I was having my server moved to a new data centre -- from NTT to Tmnet. The former is run by a nearly all-Chinese crew of 20-something network engineers whereas Tmnet's is run by a completely Malay crew. As I carried my server across the road to the Tmnet building (which kinda looks like a multi-storied McDonalds on the outside), I asked my server guy, Alex, a very racist question: was the data centre safe? Thanks to the local policy of affirmative action for Malays at universities, all Malay university graduates have the reputation of retaining second class intelligence.
But Alex had already checked it out and had five other servers under their care. Alex is one of those smooth-skinned dark-complexioned Chinese who would look better serving Kahlua on beaches wearing nothing but Bermuda shorts. He has a kind of gormless look with squinty up-turned eyes that I suspect added further fuel to achieve his perfectionist ambition.
I didn't know whether to believe him when they made us wear these blue hair-nets over our shoes. They're supposed to stop the build-up of static electricity while we walked round the server racks and they made your shoes look like bunny slippers. They looked really small and I ended wearing two on each shoe, one for the heel and one for the cap, which made my feet look even more clownish.
The data centre looks like a locker room for geeks. I imagined Doctor Bruce Banner changing into Lou Ferrigno and pushing down the 8-foot high server racks like dominos.
Alex and I ended up at the data centre for nearly three hours, while he tried to fix the mess left behind by idiots who used to manage my server until I fired them last week. Fortunately I had brought my favourite grey Scottish wool sweater. It got chillier inside when it started to rain heavily outside.
I was quite bored while Alex tried to troubleshoot. I walked around and had a look at the contents of the other server racks. Some of the server's owners were clearly identified. Compaq had huge proprietary racks with their logo debossed into the side. Jobstreet.com.my
has their servers there too and they're the cheapest bastards I've ever seen. One of their 4-U servers was a dirty USD5 Taiwanese CPU casing that looked like it had just come from a back-alley street market. They had also individually labelled their three servers as "oxen", "seagull" and "dolphin".
I think I'm going to call mine "Buffet".
Religion is a familiar and comforting thing. When my father had a very difficult period in his life, he turned to religion, as do many people, Christian or otherwise. The Iraqis have likewise made Islam and prayer their rock while they lived through a very long period of an undeniably very harsh dictatorship.
When considering what they will do next after such turbulent times, feeling safe will be their top-most priority on their hierarchy of needs
. And they will select leaders who promise them safety as they only knew during Saddam's rule -- the safety of religion.
Rather than setting up a democratic government I believe it is quite likely that the next batch of leaders they will pick will be centred on religious leaders like Ayatollah al-Hakim
. As the military occupation grows longer and as their hardships continue, the people will be reminded more and more that the US had lengthened their hardships with sanctions. They will start to see the US as the main reason why many of their men will not be returning from the war, rather than as Saddam-liberators. Any leader like Chalabi that the US touches will be instantly tainted and will not receive popular support. Ayatollah al-Hakim's star will conversely shine brighter and brighter as he can claim that he opposed the US right from the start.
While the US, with financial and military aid to their chosen successor, will try to avoid allowing a religious leader to dominate the Iraqi political scenario, the question that will nag them is not which leader will they prefer, but which clerical leader will they least dislike.
This website for the film club of KL
just got done by my webdesigner. It's run using the Geeklog
engine and I'm thinking of switching my own website over to Geeklog instead of Blogger. I can postdate and predate (to a certain extent) the posts, use polls and have a built-in search function. So much more useful, easy to install and has developers working on more plug-ins
. But there's no built-in tagboard for it yet.
Grass has been missing from the Malaysian palette for a few weeks already. Grass, as in the illegal stuff, not the stuff you're supposed to keep off of. Hmmm. Well, I think you know what I mean.
The main pipeline to Malaysia from Thailand has seen some thinning since the Thai Prime Minister instituted a shoot-to-kill
policy where dealers and even users are dramatically shot by "unknown" assailants.
But I managed to get a small amount just now from Thor, the owner of Skoob Books. It was expensive (USD$18) for a tiny pack that would barely fill three cigarettes (but turned out so good I was missing targets at the arcade two days afterward). So Thor made up for it by telling this anecdote.I usually get my stuff from this guy who has really good connections with Bukit Amman
(the police headquarters in Malaysia). His ex-girlfriend's father was the police chief. The police deal in Malaysia but their stuff is quite bad because they usually get it from the police lock-up after it's been sitting there a few days or weeks.
(one of Thor's journalist friends at the national newspaper) showed me this newspaper article once about a court case in which a man was remanded for dealing drugs.
As the charges were being read out, his lawyer stood up and pointed out that the amount that the man was being charged for was not the same as the amount on the evidence table. On inspection, the evidence was shy of a few hundred grammes, maybe 200 grammes. The police said this was due to drying out. In all honesty, I think it is possible for a stash to lose some weight. But the lawyer pointed out, BUT NOT THAT MUCH.
The police then replied that it was because of rats. The police lock-up was infested with rats, he insisted.
The journalist didn't pursue the matter, probably to protect his relationship with the police. And the judge not having much choice could only keep his head and coolly say that Bukit Amman should call in the exterminators then motioned for the court to carry on.
But what did not come out of that court case was that the rats had unwrapped the foil, eaten a very neatly-cut slice of the grass, then had the rest wrapped up again and replaced in the lock-up.
Because my business domain is registered with Directnic.com
, I get a free copy of their expired domains newsletter. The list is thousands and thousands of names long. And did I mention that it ONLY lists the ones that have expired in the last 24 hours?
The first few thousands were gobbledegook acronyms likes swgf.com. So I skipped to the last ones which are much longer. Here's some of them.
itsthemostfunyoucanhavewithyourpantson.comI think I have more fun with them off
nuts-cashew-almonds-macadamia-pistachio.comObviously someone needs more variety in his diet
jimmy-keith-and-his-shocky-horrors.comI'm shocked. No actually I'm horrored.
vegetarianretirementtucsonaz.comSome people go travelling when they retire, and some people...
jesusofnazarethkingofthejews.comThen again, some people SHOULD retire
internationalchurchofmankind.comI think I belong to this congregation...
confettitradinginternational.comI'll take your Scarlett Ohara Red confetti if you'll throw in two of those Beebop Blue ones
trafficinfractionhelpcenter.comI know a lot of people who would need one of these
births-marriages-and-deaths.comNow here's a dotcom with something for everyone
yoursisaverybadcompany.comNow ain't that the truth
On days like this when the rain is so heavy that you can barely make out the building across the street, I like to stand outside of the office, smoke a cigarette and make like Humphrey Bogart waiting for Ingrid Bergman at the airport. I keep a pack in the office drawer for moments like this.
Marlboros' for Bogart. Dunhills for Greenstreet.
No one has really pin-pointed how the SARS
(Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that was detected in mid-March
is spread. There have been a number of guesses by scientists, including sex and kissing
, proximity to the infected
and animal contact
. The only thing I know is that weird rumours and hysteria are spread by SARS.
Thanks to the lack of concrete facts, people have been making up their own to deal with their feelings of morbid dissonance. Here's a list of ones that have been going from mouth to mouth in Malaysia:
- SARS is a concoction by George Bush to get back at China for not backing him in the war.
- Pharmaceutical companies have released it to make big money on the eventual cure.
- God spread it. (Where would evangelists be without this one?)
- It spreads in pork (the ever present rumour that only seems to reside in Muslim countries.)
- Jealous Westerners spread it because Asia has recently been enjoying a period of peace and prosperity.
The only one I haven't heard yet is the ever-green rumour that SARS is a Chinese government bio-weapon that accidently got released. 5... 4... 3... 2...
I live in a really old neighbourhood.
How old is it, you say?
Well, dear reader, I rent a room above a laundromat with machines so old, the guy who runs the shop has to throw a lit match into them to start them.
Welcome to the stone age. Leave the electricity at the door.